MIAA Div. 2 girls basketball: Northampton scores season-high 78 points in 30-point win over Hingham (PHOTOS)

Northampton’s Bri Heafey (5) gets fouled on the way to the basket by Hingham’s Sophie Kerr (13) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Bri Heafey (5) gets fouled on the way to the basket by Hingham’s Sophie Kerr (13) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) drives the ball against Hingham’s Sophie Kerr (13) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) drives the ball against Hingham’s Sophie Kerr (13) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) puts up a shot over Hingham’s Kate McBride (10) and Sophie Kerr (13) in the second quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) puts up a shot over Hingham’s Kate McBride (10) and Sophie Kerr (13) in the second quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Teagan McDonald (10) steals a pass intended for Hingham in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Teagan McDonald (10) steals a pass intended for Hingham in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) goes in for a layup defended by Hingham’s Kate McBride (10) and Ava Sugrue (24) in the second quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) goes in for a layup defended by Hingham’s Kate McBride (10) and Ava Sugrue (24) in the second quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Bri Heafey (5) drives past Hingham’s Kate McBride (10) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Bri Heafey (5) drives past Hingham’s Kate McBride (10) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) puts up a shot against Hingham in the second quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) puts up a shot against Hingham in the second quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Emme Calkins (4) drives the ball defended by Hingham’s Marissa Matthews (14) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Emme Calkins (4) drives the ball defended by Hingham’s Marissa Matthews (14) in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) puts up a jumper against Hingham in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton.

Northampton’s Ava Azzaro (13) puts up a jumper against Hingham in the first quarter Thursday night in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-29-2024 9:22 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It’s no secret that Northampton girls basketball head coach Perry Messer preaches defense on a daily basis to his Blue Devils team, that’s one of the reasons they’ve been so successful during his tenure at the school.

And while the defense was fantastic in the first half of No. 7 Northampton’s 78-48 victory over No. 26 Hingham in the MIAA Division 2 Round of 32 on Thursday night, it was the other side of the ball that stole the show.

Behind 22 points apiece from senior Ava Azzaro and junior Bri Heafey, the Blue Devils poured in a season-high 78 points in their 30-point rout of the Harbormen.

“We’ve been coached to play defense,” Azzaro said. “But this year we’ve made a shift, because, defense wins games 100 percent, but you do need to also have that offensive side. And that’s what we’ve been developing this year, and I think that’s why it’s been so much better. We’ve worked at it a ton.”

Northampton moves on to the Sweet 16 where it will host the winner of Friday’s contest between No. 10 Mansfield and No. 23 Marlborough.

Thursday marked the ninth game this season in which Northampton has scored at least 60 points, and the fourth time its reached at least 70. Joining Azzaro and Heafey in double figures was freshman Emme Calkins (12  points) and senior Chloe Derby (10 points) as eight different Blue Devils players found the scoring column in the win. 

The fluidity in which Northampton plays on the offensive end is exactly what Messer wants to see while it navigates through the state tournament.

“The one thing is, is we’ve started to understand that if you play unselfish and play for each other, good things happen,” Messer said. “If you set good screens, you’re probably gonna get the open shots, because everyone is gonna be fighting through the screen and you’re gonna get left open on the roll. If you’re willing to sacrifice and do something for a teammate, chances are, you’re getting the next one. And our team is starting to get that.”

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Four minutes into the game, the Blue Devils were already ahead 12-2. Heafey scored seven of those points while the Northampton full-court pressure forced a handful of Hingham turnovers. A Teagan McDonald free throw, Azzaro jumper and two shots from the line from Calkins extended the lead to 16-3 and forced a Harbormen timeout.

The start couldn’t have been better for the Blue Devils.

“I thought it was great, our team really picked each other up throughout the game, and we started off really aggressive like we were trying to do,” Heafey said. “And everyone contributed all across the board, offensively and defensively. I just thought we played really well as a team.”

The second frame began similar to the first, with Northampton rattling off a dozen straight points to catapult ahead 30-7. Hingham didn’t convert a field goal until the 1:23 mark of the quarter. The game surely wasn’t over quite yet considering it was still early, but the Blue Devils were in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.

“I knew for us, we had to get our defense going,” Messer said. “They were pretty athletic, and we knew they were gonna run their five-out weave and penetrate and kick. I thought our defensive pressure was pretty good. We only gave up 15 in the first half, we scored 41, so that part of it was good.”

Heafey and Azzaro put it out of reach right away in the third. The dynamic duo combined for 12 points in the first five minutes of the quarter as the Blue Devils’ lead extended above 30, where it would stay until the final horn.

“Bri and Ava and Chloe, they’ve played a lot of basketball in their careers, and it shows,” Messer said. “They’re getting into the paint, they’re looking for each other. I thought Ava was the best athlete on the floor, and usually Bri is the smartest one on the floor in terms of knowing where the ball needs to go.”

Both Azzaro and Derby, two seniors with the most experience at the varsity level, gave credit to the freshmen for helping Northampton get as far as it has this season. Calkins, Liv Joenson and Anna Oravec play significant minutes as three of five freshmen on the roster, and they were all on the court together several times throughout Thursday’s game.

“It means more this year,” Azzaro said, comparing last season to this one. “Having the freshmen that we have, it means more. Especially me being a senior, it’s really special for me. And [the freshmen] are the hardest workers we could have. They’re the reason we came this far.”

“Having the freshmen come in and start scoring has been really important for us,” Derby echoed. “They come off the bench for us, and Emme Calkins, she comes in and can hit a 3 at any time so that’s really nice to have.”

Last year, Northampton fell in the Round of 32. This year, that wasn’t the case. But the Blue Devils are far from finished.

“You know, it’s awesome; it’s everything I ever dreamed of,” Heafey said. “We’re all excited, but we wanna win and have more work to do.”